Tuesday, August 08, 2023

What Georgians read on Wikipedia

 Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC-Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Hans Gutbrod, who teaches at Ilia State University. Hans was previously the Regional Director of Caucasus Research Resource Centers. The views presented in the article are of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of NDI, CRRC-Georgia, or any related entity.

Analysing the most-visited Georgian-language pages on Wikipedia gives an insight into the priorities and interests of Georgian users of the site, with some surprises.

In the depths of the internet, a little-known site listing the page views of different sites gives access to a particular treasure: the 100 most visited Georgian-language Wikipedia entries since 2015, highlighting what people have been drawn to over the last seven years. 

Some of the top pages may not come as a surprise to those familiar with the country’s attitude to its history and culture. 

For example, Georgian-language Wikipedia usage shows a strong interest in the country’s kings. David IV Aghmashenebeli (the Builder) is the third most visited page on Georgian Wikipedia, followed by Queen Tamar (5), Erekle II (10), Vakhtang I Gorgasali (11), and Parnavaz I (28). The first and only living Georgian among the top 100 is Georgian footballer and Napoli left-winger Kvicha Kvaratskhelia (48). 

Poetry, poets, and writers are also popular, led by Ilia Chavchavadze (8), The Knight in the Panther’s Skin (12), Vazha-Pshavela (14), Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani (20), Shota Rustaveli (23), Akaki Tsereteli (25) and Galaktion Tabidze (32), and playwright and director Sandro Akhmeteli (40). The painter Niko Pirosmani (56) is also among the top 10 artists that Georgians look up on Wikipedia. Composers, however, appear not to be looked up frequently. 

Is the curiosity genuine, or are children cribbing for school? Ilia Chavchavadze is most in demand in November (26,700 views) and of least interest in August (3,900 views). This pattern seems to align with the curricular season, though perhaps it is good if teachers encourage kids to wander the pastures of ‘the largest and most-read reference work in history’. 

Sharka Blue (23) was not a name I recognised. On inspection, it turns out that Sharka Blue lists ‘Assume the Position 4’ among her oeuvre. You would be wrong to expect that to be a tactical recommendation for a debating competition.

The prominence of her page looks likely to be attributable to Georgian Wikipedia having a full list of her professional filmography — something that no other language appears to have. Only 60% of her page views are from a mobile device, when otherwise the average is above 80%.

Sharka notwithstanding, women are systematically underrepresented in Georgian Wikipedia. Queen Tamar is the only woman in the top 20, and when speaking about her, many men — especially during toasts —  will anyway insist she was so formidable as to be a mepe, a king. The next women are far down the list, with the Martyrdom of Shushanik (77), Queen Elizabeth II (79), and Saint Nino (84), making for a total of five women versus 25 men among the top 100 entries. 

Geographical information is highly sought after on Georgian Wikipedia. The fourth most popular entry is Ukraine, closely followed by the List of Countries (7), National Flags (15), Russia (18), the United States of America (22), and Earth (26). As might be expected, interest in Ukraine and Russia spiked in February/March of 2022. 

Mexico, an increasingly popular destination for those seeking to travel onward to the US, remains the 919th most visited page with stable interest across the years, suggesting that Wikipedia is not where potential migrants do their research.

The word ‘tolerance’ (85) is amongst the top 100 Georgian-language Wikipedia pages, as is ‘liberalism’ (91). Otherwise, verbs (36), adjectives (49), metaphor (80), and synonyms (86), rank high, suggesting once again that a significant proportion of the online encyclopedia’s Georgian-language users may be students. 

One odd feature in Georgia, but also Armenia and Azerbaijan, is that the single most visited page is the entry for Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan politician, with half a million page visits in total. As less than 0.2% of the visits are from a mobile device, when otherwise this is how Wikipedia is usually accessed, there probably are bots at work. 

The high-intensity visits started in early 2020 and have been high since, with a short trough across the three countries at the same time in December 2021. The Georgian page for Puigdemont was created as a translation from the Russian entry. It has been reported that Puigdemont’s associates have visited Moscow, and may have even sought assistance there. 

Georgia's most viewed page after that? Ahead of the page for the country itself, it is the entry for Europebet. Perhaps eager customers have been jumping on the first link in Google, as an accidental (if potentially informative) detour before clicking through to the gambling site. An alternative interpretation is that people are impatiently clicking on the top listing in hopes of finding news of their favourite team. 

Such sporting enthusiasm is evident in article edits. Georgia’s most edited entry is that of footballer Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (286 edits), followed by Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi (107 edits, 83rd most viewed entry), as avid fans update their players’ scores. 

Major gaps remain in what is accessible on Georgian Wikipedia. For example, while according to WHO data, 28% of children in Georgia are overweight or obese, there is no entry on the subject in Georgian that parents or health professionals might use for reference. In Armenia, at least, the English entry seems to have been translated.

Other entries remain stubs. The Georgian-language entry on inflation has 113 words. By comparison, those that read English can find an article that is more than 80 times as detailed, with over 9000 words, describing causes as well as methods of controlling inflation. With inflation in Georgia running at 12% per year, the issue matters for most families. Macroeconomic teaching and research on inflation in Georgia could be complemented by making information on the issue available to all.

Wikipedia in the region rests on the work of few contributors. When it comes to Admins, the entire Caucasus contingent would fit on a mid-sized bus: 14 in Azerbaijan, 11 in Armenia, six in Georgia, five for Megrelian, and two for the Abkhaz language. 

When things are easy to improve, they should not ever be complained about. Wikipedia squarely fits into that category. Any user can help to add information, as long as it is well-documented with a reliable source. One would hope that universities get more engaged, too, to encourage lecturers and students to add their micro-contribution to knowledge – arguably the most fruitful assignment as it serves the world, not just a single assessment. 

Wikipedia, as it turns out, does not just hold information – it also holds information about information, in telling us what is of most interest. In this way, it opens yet another window onto Georgia and onto the world. 

This article was written by Hans Gutbrod, who teaches at Ilia State University. Hans was previously the Regional Director of Caucasus Research Resource Centers. This analysis is based on a presentation at the CRRC methods conference in June 2023. For a regional comparison, see this article on EurasiaNet. The author extends a special thanks to Giorgi Melashvili for pointing out how to retrieve the listings. The full list is here. The views presented in the article are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity.